Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Salt & Pepper



The Space In Between


Black & White, Mustard and Ketchup, Ying & Yang....you get the idea. Everything has its counterpart.

On my recent day off from work (I take a lot of them, seniority has it's perks) I took my car into the shop to have some work done on it. If you have read enough of my ramblings, you know that my car is not a practical thing; it is more of a hobby. It is also more of an expensive hobby. I guess it is considered one of those mid-life crisis toys that men get when they turn 50. It is also one of those things that every 18 year old dreams of having. Let me tell all you young'uns one thing, the reality isn't quite what you dreamed it would be.

So on my day off I am driving the "Red Rocket" to the other side of town for some $150/hour TLC. I am passing folks left and right and turning a few heads as I go, which is basically what this car is designed to do. More than once, I have driven down the interstate and thought to myself that "I am living the dream", while at the same time calculating in my head how much it is costing me to traverse each mile of asphalt.

I ended up at the dealer and droped off my toy, handed over the keys, chit-chated for a while and left. The dealer has never worked on the car for less than 10 days and I knew I wouldn't be seeing the Red Rocket again for a while. That is just part of owning an expensive adult toy. There are long periods of separation.

Since my wife was home sleeping off some anesthesia from a recent dentist visit and in no shape to drive a car, I hopped on the local bus system for the 2 hour bus ride back to our house. This was the other side of the coin.

Phoenix is a driving town. It is built on the assumption that everyone has an automobile. Although, Phoenix has improved its bus system over the past few years. They had to, with the shifting economy and the influx of immigrants that need to ride it. This city is really spread out and you can't walk anywhere, especially when it is 110 degrees in the summer.

I boarded the west bound bus at its terminus and grabbed a prime seat. What I got to see over the next 2 hours was a succession of folks getting on and off the bus at almost every stop. There were construction workers with tools, office workers, students, elder folks in wheelchairs, some transients, and a whole mess of young Hispanic woman with several toddlers in tow. After a few stops, the bus was standing room only.

As I sat in my chair with my sunglasses over my eyes and my iPod plugged into my ears, I got to watch this whole inner-city opera of characters come and go to the strains of Nino Rota's music composed for Federico Fellini's early films of the 1950s and 60s. It was all a bit surreal.

I mused how each of them would react to driving the rocket to their destination. I wasn't being smug or condesencding. I just wondered if they thought they would ever be living their dream and what it might be.

I as I stared into their faces, I saw the cross section of America that many people don't see while commuting to work in their Chevrolets and Lexus. Some of these bus riders had aspirations and hopes that hadn't been crushed by corruption or bad luck. Some had lived hard lives and it showed in the lines around their eyes and on their foreheads. Some didn't seem to have a clue and were just going through the motions.
This was the 'melting pot' that we all hear about in history books and in social studies. It is a real thing, not just a cliché.

If the politicians that are spending mountains of money to get themselves elected president really want to get my vote, they need to ride this bus for a week. They need to give up their seat for an elderly woman; they need to stand next to the foul smelling drunk. They need to contemplate the 15 year old rapper with the tattoos and the pierced lip. They need to stand holding on to a strap for 50 minutes until their anlkes swell and their feet hurt. They need to become one with the 'melting pot'.

This is one of the little things that the Red Rocket has taught me. It is just one end of a spectrum. Seeing the spectrum from both ends has given me a much better view of all the things that lay in between. Strength isn't found at the ends, it springs from somewhere in the middle.



Sleeping Bus Rider